One of the parts of my kit that I was kind of ashamed for was my shield glove. I took great pains to have a halfway decent looking glove for my sword hand (although compromises had to be made there, too), but the glove for my shield hand was a welder’s glove. Practical but ugly.
I had a todo for „new shield glove“ since at least April 2016, but I didn’t quite get around to it. This weekend, after making a practice piece from artificial leather, I went for the real thing. I took some pictures to illustrate the process.
There are some „truths“ in reenactment which are rarely questioned, although maybe they should be. These are sometimes called „reenactorisms“, self-propagating myths that are perpetuated by the „monkey see, monkey do“ attitude that befalls reenactors, be they inexperienced or veterans.
A reenactor’s knot (image copyright The Jelling Dragon)
One of those truths is a trivially sounding question: How long were viking-age belts? We have come to accept that they had a buckle and a strap-end, and the strap-end hung about crotch to mid-thigh – 20 to 40 cm from the buckle. The strap was fed through the buckle and then knotted just behind it, hanging straight down. This is sometimes called „the reenactor’s knot“, and there doesn’t seem to be an awful lot of evidence for it. Apart from that, it is really impractical because you constantly have a strap-end dangling between your legs. 😉
So, an excellent reenactor and designer of bronze jewelry replicas, Burr Öhrström, took it upon himself to research the Birka graves for evidence of belts and buckles. I did the same tonight (oblivious of the fact that he already had done that) and would like to systematize the conclusions a little.
Helmet finds in the Viking Age
Helmets are a bit of a touchy topic for viking-age reenactors. There really aren’t that many finds from the „Viking lands“, i.e. Scandinavia, the British Isles and the Rus area of influence.
In the West, there’s the Gjermundbu helmet – an iconic helmet that is for many people the definition of a „viking helmet“. However, that helmet is a singular find, and it’s from Norway. From what is now Poland and Czech Republic, there are several nasal helmet finds (St. Wenceslas‘ helmet with Christ Savior nailed to the nasal, Lednicki lake, Olmütz, to mention a few) and the Rus have helmet finds from Cernigov (actually, several from that area, but I’ll cover that in a second), from Gnezdowo (a simple nasal helmet, as well as an „Eastern“ helmet with brass decoration) and some more (see below).
There’s a good overview over Russian helmets on Peter Beatson’s site, taken from Volume 3 of Kirpichnikov’s seminal anthology on Old Russian Arms and Armour.
There are very few finds of viking-age helmet remains in what is now Sweden, unfortunately. There is the Lokrume fragment from Gotland (which, due to its specific geography, is stilistically so far removed from mainland Sweden that it could well be a completely different country), and that’s pretty much it.